The course was a joint initiative of the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Town and Country Planning, Department of Lands and Survey and the BVI Red Cross; and was the first in a series designed to enhance national search and rescue capabilities for both land and sea-based response operations.
The two-day training session provided the emergency response personnel with both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. DDM’s Technical Planning Officer, Mr. Christopher Williams, who served as one of the co-facilitators, explained the elements involved.
“The training included 16 hours of course work and offered both theoretical and practical instructions involving the use of topographic maps and navigation aids such as Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments, grid coordinates, compass reading and search techniques,” he said, adding, “The training also incorporated the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which is widely used by Government agencies in the production of maps and decision making for planning and emergency response purposes.”
Elaborating on the particular attention paid to practical exercises, DDM’s Training Officer, Ms. Carishma Hicks said, “The course was carefully designed to ensure that practical applications are included and the participating officers were taken to locations to allow them to practice progressively moving through challenging terrain where navigation strategies are required.”
Ms. Hicks also referenced additional training to further improve search and rescue capability in the BVI.
“We intend to supplement this training with a night navigation session where there is a reliance on tools like timing, pacing and bearings as well as training for sea-based navigation operations,” she said.
While explaining the linkages of this training to the work of emergency response agencies, Chairman of the National GIS Committee, Mr. Troy Dawson said, “Map reading and land navigation in the context of emergency services are necessary skills that will enable emergency responders to quickly find their way around the island by identifying specific features on the ground and on local maps and assist in the swift and accurate transmission of information on the location of people or objects.”
The newly trained officers will form part of the National Search and Rescue Team and over time, will receive the necessary training to allow them to be fully certified by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group. The advisory group establishes minimum international standards for Urban Search and Rescue teams based on established guidelines endorsed by the United National General Assembly Resolution 57/150 of 2002.
Government departments or agencies interested in this training can contact the DDM’s Training Officer to express their interest. Additional courses are being planned for 2015.